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Rwanda Stage 1

Background to the conflict

Violence between Rwanda's governing Hutus and the Rwandan Patriotic Front headed toward a full-scale civil war.




Rwanda is a small, densely-populated rural nation in central Africa. It covers about 26,000 square kilometres, about half the size of Nova Scotia, Canada. In the early 1990s, Rwanda’s population was approximately eight million people.

Hutus and Tutsis

The Hutu and Tutsi tribes form the majority of the country’s population. The minority Tutsis dominated Rwanda's economy and politics for centuries. In 1960, the Hutus rose up and forced hundreds of thousands of Tutsis to flee the country. Rwanda became independent in 1961 but the unrest continued. Some of the Tutsis who had fled the country formed rebel groups and tried to make an armed comeback in Rwanda. This led to decades of ethnic violence and tensions.

Rwandan Patriotic Front

In the late 1980s, the Rwandan Patriotic Front was formed. Its members were Tutsis and moderate Hutus who fled the country. They soon began attacks on Rwanda to challenge its Hutu government. These new rounds of violence displaced hundreds of thousands more Rwandans. The situation headed toward a full-scale civil war.

Classroom materials

Classroom materials main page

Lesson plan: 12-18

Humanitarian aid tree

historical sheet


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